CD Review: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mojo

Petty’s most significant break from past efforts is an openness to collaboration. In previous decades, he was always very much the boss. On Mojo, he’s removed the shackles from the Heartbreakers — as if he suddenly discovered, “Hey these guys are fucking good” — thus their playing is expansive and organic. Guitarist Mike Campbell, who until now has only been able to show his virtuosity on concert stages, seizes front and center. Whether it’s a crunchy Zeppelin-esque riff on “I Should Have Known It,” the gun-slinging solo on “Good Enough,” or the heartbreakingly tender slide solo on the Dylan-esque ballad “Something Good Coming,” Campbell exhibits consummate taste mixed with an unprecedented vigor and enthusiasm.

On Mojo, it’s about the songs and the playing. The epic “First Flash of Freedom” is an unabashed homage to early Allman Brothers, with a quasi-swing groove, blues/jazz opening riff, swirling organ and twin-guitar middle section. The song should rightfully be a concert showstopper for years to come, as should several other tunes from Mojo.

Released on Reprise Records.


Closing in on 60, Tom Petty has delivered a new studio album that effectively reshapes his sound in a fashion that has invigorated both him and his Heartbreakers band. The 15-song opus is just a few less-than-stellar songs away from being a masterpiece along the lines of Damn the Torpedoes.

Mojo has been characterized elsewhere as Petty’s blues album, which is only marginally true. A more accurate summation is that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have embraced the blues — sometimes in structure, often in spirit — far more than on any prior effort. Put another way, Mojo is far more Gainesville than L.A. This point is driven home by the opener, “Jefferson Jericho Blues,” a fast shuffle built around a guitar/harmonica riff that could’ve been dreamed up by Robert Johnson in a shotgun shack.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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